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NATO commanders in Afghanistan wary of antidrug effort

The opium trade helps fund the insurgency but also provides farmers livelihood.

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NATO leaders' agreement this fall to let their troops attack drug traffickers in Afghanistan held the promise of stemming the flow of funding for the violent insurgency here.

But military commanders now seem reluctant to go after the drug runners. NATO commanders in Afghanistan say they are holding back because of concerns over the legality of drug operations. But they may also be unwilling to conduct what is seen as a politically unpopular mission that could endanger their troops.

The country's multimillion-dollar opium industry is blamed for funding much of the bloody insurgency against US and allied troops.

Top NATO officials see differences in opinion between NATO's political leaders and the military commanders charged to do the work. "Now that we have a gap between the political authority granted and the legal interpretation of that order, it must be resolved," said Gen. Bantz Craddock, the supreme allied commander of Europe, earlier this month.

The new authority was granted at an October meeting of NATO ministers in Budapest. The agreement does not allow NATO troops to conduct sweeping eradication efforts such as torching fields, but lets them interdict facilities or personnel involved with drug trafficking.

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